Glyndebourne cancels 2023 tour programme after funding cuts

Opera company lost more than half its funding after Arts Council England sought to divert money to underserved regions

The prestigious opera company Glyndebourne has cancelled its touring programme for 2023 after cuts to its public funding.

Glyndebourne has taken its world-class opera productions to audiences around England for more than 50 years. But it lost more than half its public funding in the settlement announced in the autumn as Arts Council England (ACE) sought to fulfil a government instruction to divert money to places underserved by the arts.

Stephen Langridge, the company’s artistic director, said it was a “huge blow” to cancel the 2023 tour to Liverpool, Canterbury, Norwich and Milton Keynes, which would have involved hundreds of children, workshops in care homes, and chamber music recitals in universities.

Unlike the English National Opera (ENO), which had its funding cut to zero and was told it must relocate outside London in order to be considered for future grants, Glyndebourne was awarded £800,000 annually in the autumn settlement, which covers 2023-26. But the amount was half the annual sums awarded during the previous funding period of 2018-2022.

Glyndebourne’s announcement came shortly after Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary, this week accused ACE of taking “lazy” and “politically motivated” decisions in its funding awards. She said the 100% cut in ENO’s budget had been “pulled as a stunt to try [to] reverse levelling up and funding being transferred to poorer communities in the north of England”.

Glyndebourne said its funding cut had come at a time of rising costs and followed a number of years during which the company had absorbed losses from its touring programme, which has been subsidised by the Glyndebourne festival. The festival receives no public subsidy.

Since ACE announced its settlement in November, Glyndebourne had explored alternative ways to make touring financially viable, without success, the company said.

Richard Davidson-Houston, the managing director of Glyndebourne, said: “The latest funding settlement from Arts Council England is devastating for many in the opera sector, which was targeted with significant cuts. It risks undermining the delicate ecosystem in which we operate.

“These cuts have been justified in part by the need to redirect public funding to support culture in the regions. In this context, the decision to reduce Glyndebourne’s funding by 50% appears contradictory because it has the direct, inevitable and foreseeable consequence of rendering our tour financially unsustainable.

“This news adds to a series of setbacks for freelancers, is disappointing for our loyal venue partners, and worsens cultural provision for audiences around the country who have enjoyed Glyndebourne’s world-class opera productions at an affordable price in their local area for more than 50 years.”

Langridge said: “Alongside main stage performances, we had planned exciting opportunities for people in those locations to make music with Glyndebourne in their community.

“This would have seen hundreds of children singing with the Glyndebourne Chorus, workshops in care homes and chamber music recitals in universities. Sadly, this autumn we will not be able to offer these extraordinary opera experiences so widely across England.

“However, whenever faced with adversity, Glyndebourne responds with creativity and innovation. So we will continue our tradition of performing full-scale opera and concerts in the autumn here at Glyndebourne and build on our longstanding talent development and learning and engagement activity as part of our mission to enrich the lives of as many people as possible through opera.”

In November, Welsh National Opera said it was cancelling planned performances in Liverpool after its ACE funding was cut by 35%. The Royal Opera House also had its funding cut by 10%.

A spokesperson for ACE said: “This was our most competitive round to date, and difficult decisions had to be made, and we have a package of support available to organisations offered reduced levels of funding to help them to adapt.

“This round we have increased investment in touring opera at the small and mid-scale size by funding organisations such as English Touring Opera and OperaUpClose, and opera will continue to receive 40% of our overall investment in music.”


Harriet Sherwood Arts and culture correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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